A/N: I think either MamzelleCombeferre or Mlle_Alexandrie is to blame for this, but it really could be anyone that posted in the Mu(in)saine that one night a few weeks ago we went post-happy. Whichever/whoever you are, thanks for the wild trip.
Perhaps the only thing worse than being a single parent is being a single family. Jeanne Valjean Berger had her children, of course, but they were so small they could not help their family climb out of their debts. Jeanne had had a brother, but he had been imprisoned the winter before for stealing bread. This event had led to most of their little town abandoning the family, breaking off what small binds of charity that had once sustained the eight, and eliminating any future employment Jeanne had desperately tried to find.
Summer is a time for life, but diseases still run throughout the season. One of these made its way to the eldest Berger children, Champ, stretching the few threads of charity that remained to the point that they, too, were broken, and left Jeanne in a position where finding work was the only option. Since Faverolles had turned its back to them, the only option was seemingly to leave the town. Young Champ's illness, however, prevented travel, and any funds that may have gone towards relocation were sent towards medicine. That summer, there were many days where Jeanne would skip the day's meals entirely so the children may have had something to eat.
It was the week that none of them had food that she realized she would have to find money in a different way. Champ's illness had only gotten worse, and most of the rest were still too young to attempt to strike out on their own to find employment themselves. The second-oldest, Anton, had attempted to become a chimney sweep, but the family hadn't heard from him since June, and it was now approaching August. The children were almost as bad off as they had been the winter their uncle had stolen bread for them, and Jeanne was becoming more fragile by the day. Even if the people had some pity left for them, the most she could do by day was attempt to sell flowers on the road running beside their tiny home. That job paid barely enough for Champ's medicine, and it seemed that the girl was doomed to follow her brother into the wrong side of the law.
He stole. She sold. He stole food, she sold herself.
By late August, her profession had allowed the children and herself a little more food, and she could attempt to find a job back within the lines of the law a few towns away. There was still no word from Anton, but Champ's illness had finally left. By mid-September, Jeanne and Champ had saved enough money from odd jobs to be able to care for the entire family somewhat comfortably in the new town, Jeanne became a seamstress, and Champ moved again in the attempt to find a stable job. He promised to write back, though he knew it wouldn't matter since the seven were all illiterate.
By 1799, most of the children had helped by performing odd jobs, Champ had sent most them of his income, and Anton was assumed dead. The five youngest and their mother set off for Paris.